Based on Bronco Billy, Clint Eastwood’s 1980 film, Bronco Billy: The Musical is a classic, out-and-out old fashioned musical comedy crafted to delight an audience with great singing, vigorous dancing, hilarious oddball characters, and a romantic through-line with complications that lead to a crowd pleasing finale.
The year is 1979 and Bronco Billy’s Wild West Show is a down-at-the-heals anachronism that is just about broke. Billy (excellent Eric B. Anthony) aims for one last shot at success by taking the company to Hollywood to compete for the prize of a TV series for the winners. Billy is an ex-con and so are some of the others in small troupe. Chief Big Eagle (Michael Uribes) and his wife, the tap-dancing Lorraine (Fatima El-Bashir) provide the necessary Native American element; Two Gun Lefty Lebow (Randy Charleville) is a rootin’–tootin’ gun-slinging clown; and Lasso Leonard James (Kyle Frattini) does rope tricks and sings like a bird. Whenever captivating, flashy young women are needed, Mitzi (Bella Hicks) and Dee Dee (Jamie Mills) fill the bill with unbridled enthusiasm. Doc (beguiling Benai Boyd), the ringmaster, is the wise adult in the troupe and serves, at lights up, as a Shakespearean “Chorus” hinting at the trajectory of the show and promising all the crowd pleasing elements.
Drama needs conflict, in this case it’s provided by villains and a damsel. Candy bar magnate, Sam Lilly (Anthony Marciona), dies leaving his fortune to his daughter, Antoinette (sweet singing Amanda Leigh Jerry), and cutting out his second wife, Constance (Michelle Azar, the show’s operatic diva), an over-the-top, Cruella-de-Vil-esque delight, backed by her corrupt lawyer, Lipton (Marc Cardiff), Lilly’s sniveling husband, John Arlington (Chris M. Kauffmann), and the cartoonish hit man, Sinclair St. Clair (Pat Towne), all of whom want her dead.
Eric B. Anthony carries the show with heart-on-the-sleeve emotion, fine singing and passionate playing. Ms. Jerry matches him vocally and emotionally and together they provide great moments of passion and comedy. The drilled and polished ensemble, with musical direction by Anthony Lucca and choreography by Janet Roston, perform with patent joy and terrific enthusiasm.
Superbly directed by Hunter Bird, Bronco Billy benefits from John Iacovelli’s inventive, open scenic design (with lighting by Brian Gale) that features easily moveable set pieces that keep the action flowing. Anne Closs-Farley’s costumes are eye-popping and ideally support each and every character and their action. Sound design by Cricket S. Meyers and Daniel Tator provide an excellent balance between miked actors and the musicians. David Murakami designed the projections and Kevin Williams does properties.
With arrangements and orchestrations by David O, the orchestra, under the musical direction of conductor/keyboardist Anthony Lucca, boasts the talents of Austin Chanu (woodwinds/percussion), Jeff Frantom ( guitars), Cyrus Elia (electric and upright bass), and Ryan McDiarmid (drums and percussion).
This world premiere production of Bronco Billy: The Musical is finely crafted piece of theatre with book by Dennis Hackin, music and lyrics by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres (additional lyrics by Michele Brourman). I can easily envision this show being produced in New York and at regional theatres across the country, and, eventually, picked up by colleges and community theatres. Personally, I had a great time at the theatre on opening night.
Produced by Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco for Skylight Theatre Company, Bronco Billy: The Musical, continues through June 30 at Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont in Los Angeles.